CNN anchor Chris Cuomo apologized on Thursday night for advising his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to handle his sexual harassment scandal—calling it a “mistake” that will “never happen again.” He also insisted that he “knows where the line is” when it comes to his job and brother.
“I am family first, job second,” he said at the top of his primetime show Thursday night. “But being a journalist and a brother to a politician is unique and a unique challenge, and I have a unique responsibility to balance those roles. It’s not always easy.”
He continued: “How I helped my brother also matters. When my brother’s situation became turbulent, being looped into calls with other friends of his and advisers, that did include some of his staff, I understand why that was a problem for CNN. It will never happen again.”
Adding that “it was a mistake, because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot,” Cuomo went on to claim that was never his intention. Furthermore, he insisted that he’s been “walled off” from CNN’s coverage of his brother’s controversies and scandals.
“This is a unique and difficult situation, and that’s okay,” the CNN anchor concluded. “I know where the line is. I can respect it and still be there for my family, which I must. I have to do that. I love my brother, I love my family, I love my job. And I love and respect my colleagues here at CNN. And again, to them I am truly sorry.”
Chris Cuomo is under fire over a bombshell Washington Post report that revealed the CNN anchor was involved in strategy calls with his brother and senior members of the governor’s staff discussing how to respond to the sexual harassment allegations by several women.
According to the Post, the CNN star “encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office” amid the burgeoning scandal earlier this year. Chris Cuomo also told the New York governor that “cancel culture” was a reason not to bend, something Andrew Cuomo himself publicly invoked while dismissing the accusations made by at least six women, the report said.
Although Chris Cuomo’s clandestine strategy meetings fly in the face of journalistic ethics and are widely seen as a fireable offense, CNN said the primetime anchor will not be disciplined—even though the network acknowledged that his actions were improper.
“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo—on air or behind the scenes,” the network said in a statement. “In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother.”
“However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges. He will not participate in such conversations going forward,” CNN added.
The women’s group UltraViolet reacted to the news by calling on CNN to immediately suspend its star anchor and launch a probe into his involvement in his brother’s attempt to brush off multiple sexual harassment allegations.
“This was a major network news anchor advising the Governor of New York to actively push back against sexual harassment allegations and denegrate survivors of abuse by defining their calls for accountability as ‘cancel culture,’” UltraViolet communications director Bridget Todd said in a statement. “The fact that after this advice, Governor Cuomo instructed surrogates to attack and defame those who courageously came forward with their stories should not be lost on anyone.”
Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide who accused the governor of forcibly kissing her, also called out the brothers in a statement. Noting that “Chris Cuomo benefited from access to VIP COVID testing secured by his brother,” Boylan said the governor “didn’t just abuse his power to abuse women” but also “abused his power to benefit his family.”
Multiple CNN staffers said they were “vexed” both by Cuomo’s conduct and the violation of journalistic norms and standards, CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy reports.
Cuomo frequently brought his brother on the air during the early days of the pandemic for friendly TV chats in which they joked around about calling their mother and infamously used prop comedy. Earlier this year, CNN reimplemented a ban on Cuomo interviewing his brother amid the governor’s nursing home coverup scandal.
Weeks later, after several women came forward with sexual misconduct claims against the governor, the CNN anchor briefly acknowledged the controversy surrounding his brother while telling viewers why he “obviously” couldn’t cover it.
“Obviously, I’m aware of what’s going on with my brother,” Cuomo said. “And obviously I cannot cover it, because he is my brother. Now, of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.”
At the same time, Cuomo also insisted that he “always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so,” seemingly referring to sexual harassment against women—something he reportedly was advising his brother to definitely refer to as “cancel culture.”